Clayton State University opened its part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Bridging Cultures
initiative last week with a panel discussion of the four films that make up Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle
. According to the panel members, the evening in the Harry S. Downs Center was a chance for everyone to learn about both the past and the future.
The kickoff for Clayton State’s Created Equal
program highlighted all four Created Equal
films; “The Abolitionists,” “Slavery by Another Name,” “The Loving Story,” and “Freedom Riders,” documentaries that trace the struggle for civil rights in America, starting with the abolitionist movement and covering pivotal moments like the freedom rides, the end of convict leasing, and the legalization of interracial marriage.
According to student panelist Maria Morales-Beale, who holds an B.S. in Psychology from Clayton State and is currently a graduate student in Applied Developmental Psychology at Clayton State, this experiential learning experience was about the past and the future.
“One thing I like about Created Equal
is that these films are not just presented from an historical perspective… we’re writing history right now,” she says. “The issues these films show, they are still around, just in a different form. This shows us how to relate to a world that’s constantly changing and how we as students relate to each other. It’s not just about history, it’s about the future.”
Morales-Beale’s thoughts on Created Equal were echoed by her fellow panelists and Clayton State faculty members.
“Assessing these films will certainly benefit students,” says Assistant Professor of English and Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Dr. Shannon Cochran. “By analyzing the past we can navigate the present and envision the future. Our students will benefit from an examination of the past that will help them understand who we are as Americans.
“The Civil Rights struggle has been an American struggle. African American history is
American history. We all should be indebted for the effort and sacrifice of those who came before us. Hopefully, students will be empowered to become activists in their own way.”
“It was a whole dialog about what happened and what can happen. It was academic, but also sharing of personal thoughts,” recalls Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Eric Bridges. “It’s a continuation of the Civil Rights movement – we’re still very much about securing equity. It’s a link; it’s not just the past, it’s the future. That’s why these conversations a very important.”
Clayton State Assessment & Marketing Librarian, and Created Equal
Program Coordinator Erin Nagel, who served as the facilitator and moderator for the kickoff event, notes that experiential learning events like Created Equal
support the University’s “Dreams Made Real” message by engaging students with the surrounding community, providing opportunities for students to apply skills and knowledge gained in the classroom in a different environment and among different people.
“One of the goals of Created Equal
is to empower individuals to make an impact in their communities,” she says. “By connecting themes throughout history, attendees witness how the meanings of freedom and equality have changed over the years in our nation and how individuals have fought to effect these changes. It is our hope that learning about these individuals will inspire students to continue the struggle for equality and civil rights in America.”
Nagel’s comments were preceded by those of Clayton State Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Micheal Crafton, who helped open the event along with Clayton State President Dr. Thomas Hynes, by stating that Created Equal
represents the qualities that Clayton State represents, notably the importance of education and dreaming and understanding the future and emanating these dreams out to the community.
The panel’s historian, Dr. Kathryn Kemp, Clayton State professor of history, was also impressed with the educational quality of the Create Equal
“The students benefit from the visual approach. In the case of the three films from the era of photography, it allows them to see the actual events, or, in the case of “The Abolitionists,” a very accurate depiction of history,” she notes. “There’s no real substitute for seeing what happened, for seeing how it went.”
Indeed, the Created Equal
films did present a powerful story, if not necessarily a comfortable one.
“This helps preserve America’s stories; they may be difficult to hear, but they merit telling,” noted Hynes. “It’s important that these stories have a chance to be heard.”
The individual Created Equal stories will have a chance to be hear further throughout the current semester, as individual screenings of each film are planned for the coming months. For more information, go to: http://clayton.libguides.com/createdequal
Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle
is made possible through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of its Bridging Cultures
initiative, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.